Bali Intimate Apparel Style Summit Recap

As I’ve mentioned in a few recent outfit posts, I spent part of this past week in New York City. I was lucky enough to be chosen as part of a group of a dozen lovely bloggers to take part in the Bali Intimate Apparel Style Summit. In attendance with me were the ladies behind Afrobella, Addicted 2 Etsy, The Budget Fashionista, The Curvy Fashionista, Fashion.Style.Beauty., Intimate Guide, Look Linger Love, Mom Trends, MsVaughn on YouTube, PriorFatGirl, Rainy Day Diva, She Takes on the World, and Style Mom. As you can tell from that amazing list of women, the Bali folks were looking for bloggers who had a personal, vested interest in empowering women through personal style and a desire to improve the self-image of their readers. I was truly honored to be among such a stellar group of smart, driven, kind, and insightful women.

The conference itself was a mix of background on Bali and its products, general information about lingerie fitting and uses, and discussions of how feeling great about yourself is absolutely key to looking amazing and vice versa. I found myself nodding my head vigorously and often as I listened to the Bali team and their guests speaking and explaining.

We also got a chance to see some of the latest styles on live models. Bali is well aware of its reputation for being, “Your grandmother’s bra company,” and although they’re proud of their heritage and have no intention of eliminating the classic styles that have made them iconic and steadfast, they’re also working to incorporate some more contemporary fits, styles, colors, and prints among their bras, panties, and shapewear.

Later in the afternoon we met with celebrity stylist Jen Rade – who has worked with the likes of Cher, Pink, Angelina Jolie, and Tina Turner. She was AMAZING, people. A budget-conscious, body-positive, whip-smart woman who said, “If you don’t feel better about yourself as a person after you’ve spent an hour working with me, I haven’t done my job.” She preached the word about weight and size having no relationship to worth or beauty, encouraged us all to dress in ways that made us feel amazing, and just generally made me want to French kiss her.

Then, since the generous Bali folks were taking us all to see Anything Goes on Broadway that evening, we saw a makeup demo from artist Moani Lee, who showed us three looks from casual weekend, to day, to amped-up evening. (The lovely Kristin got the star treatment for this, see below.)

A few fun, miscellaneous things I learned:

  • The average American woman purchases bras 4 times per year.
  • Bra fittings can and should be done with your bra ON.
  • If you gap in the top corners of your bra, you can try a minimizer to redistribute. Or opt for balconettes or demi cups.
  • To put your bra on properly, bend over, place the straps over your shoulders, the wires against your chest, shimmy into the cups, THEN stand and fasten the back strap.
  • 85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.
  • Bali products are sold on Amazon and Bare Necessites as well as Macy’s, Sears, Kohl’s and most mid-market department stores.
  • It’s pronounced “bally,” not “bah-lee.” (Oops.)

The sheer number of products that we were shown was quite overwhelming, so I’m not going to delve too deeply into styles and items. Especially since many of the bras and other pieces we saw won’t be available for several seasons. What I will tell you is this: Not all but some Bali bra styles range from 32B to 48DDD, the company is pioneering bra and shapewear materials that are sturdy but breatheable, they’re incredibly passionate about proper fit and have a helpful section on their website with answers to common questions, and they truly, truly believe that the best way to look amazing in your clothes is to FEEL amazing in your foundations.

I was not paid nor even asked to blog about my experience at the summit, and I can tell you honestly that I am DELIGHTED to do so of my own accord. And not because I was flattered to be included, or seductively wined and dined. Because witnessing the passion with which the Bali reps talked – not only about their meticulous research into women’s needs and wants, bodies and emotions, but also about their desire to help women look and feel beautiful every single day of their lives – was encouraging and uplifting. Bali has given $200k to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation over the past three years, and their parent company, Hanes, has been an Energy Star partner since 2007. So in addition to making quality products for a relatively wide variety of bodies and needs, the company gives back and does its best to be environmentally responsible.

These folks were smart and savvy, but also attentive and open. They knew a ton about their products and market, but were hungry for suggestions and new ideas. Are you familiar with Bali‘s products? Which ones do YOU wear? What suggestions would you make for improving, changing, or enhancing their garments? I’ll be passing along your feedback, so let’s hear it!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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  • Katharine

    Right now I have all Bali bras… I’ve always found them to be reliable and well made, and they fit me well. I actually prefer basic, boring bras, as long as they FIT like perfectly, which is a big (haha) requirement. The last time I went shopping for bras I was delighted to find that Bali actually makes 32D and you can find them in stores!! I almost FAINTED IN SHOCK because I never see that size except online, and I live in a rural area where there are no specialty stores to go try on bras. If Bali are aware of bra fitting issues, they should know that there are lots of women like me who need the small ribcage/larger cup size combo and I hope they keep expanding that end of the line.

    • Can you tell me where you find 32D’s? That’s what I wear, but I’ve never found them from Bali. Actually, I’ve never found *any* 32D’s at Kohl’s, Macy’s, or JC Penney; only at Dillards.

  • Christine

    The Bali presentation and staff sound wonderful and, as I read, I had a hopeful moment of feeling that I should look into their product line more closely. And then I read that “some Bali bra styles range from 32B to 48DDD.” As a smallish 34AA, I guess I need not look after all. I think my breasts are fine, but bra makers don’t seem to think that women my size exist. I guess not enough of us do, at least, to make it economically feasible to design bras for us.

    Mostly I buy 32A bras and hope for the best. There is so little to choose from. I find a few things at the Gap, but usually nothing to even try on at department stores despite the valiant efforts of sales associates. Pretty, lacy bras? Forget it. 32A bras are almost always either super-tight mash-em’-down sports bras OR ridiculously padded bras that imply you don’t really want to be the size you are. (A little padding is often useful, though, since it helps my tops fit better.)

    I realize that there are a few companies that specialize in bras for miniature breasts, but it’s difficult and expensive to order bras from England, etc. I’ve not had any luck with the three companies I tried. And the sizing (or the manufacture?) is so inconsistent. Even when I measure carefully and follow the size charts, in practice one company’s 32A is another’s 34B.

    I also wish that bra sizes took into account the uh, “point to point” distance—a lot of small-cup bras seem to be designed for women whose breasts are spaced extremely close together.

    As I said, I really do like my breasts. It’s only when I shop for bras that I feel like I must be a freak of nature.

    • Katharine

      Oh, yes! A writer on the Hairpin described hers as “side titties” which is it, exactly — my ribcage is very large, and my breasts are positioned on sort of the outside corners of it — no cleavage at all, and many brands of bra I try on end up squashing most of my breast tissue under the side band.

      I have trouble buying bras too. I’m a 38 barely-B, and not only are 38 bands not offered by everybody, especially in smaller cup sizes, but I also find that most everyone wants to pad me up to a bigger cup, and hey! I have a 38″ underbra measurement, really, and huge shoulders — if I could, I’d wear a minimiser, because I don’t need to add any kind of bosom heft to that!

      • Maria H.

        @Katherine: I would like to point out that those who try to put you in larger cups may be right. If you end up squashing your breast tissue under the side band you need bras with wider wires. You usually get bras with wider wires by going up in cupsize, often in combination with going down in bandsize. You could check out the brands Cleo by Panache, Masquerade (=Harlequin in the USA), Atlantis by Panache, Panache Superbra (especially Confetti, Melody Balconette, Harmony Balconette), Audelle (= Lepel in the UK) and the bras by the chain store Change.

    • Marie

      I’m a 32A and I agree, it’s frustrating that lingerie makers act as if those of us with small breasts don’t need bras too. I buy mine in the girls department at Target, they’re perfect, and much cheaper than women’s!

    • I am in the same boat. I am a middle-aged, very feminine woman, with a 34-36AA bra size. I also do NOT have breasts set close together. (Sistah!)

      I have been shopping in the Target girl’s department and have had good luck with certain of their bras. When I have money to burn I go to this website – http://www.littlewomen.com/ – and buy my “date” bras here. Even though the company is based in England, they are extremely accessible, ship quickly and are very accommodating with their return policy, so you can order a few, try them on, and send back the ones you don’t want without fuss.

    • suze

      Have you tried The Little Bra Company.
      http://www.thelittlebracompany.com
      I haven’t yet. However I read they don’t have padding in their bras.
      Though I don’t know about the side squishing factor.

    • KL

      I came to the comment section to say the same thing: I was excited to check out Bali’s product line until I read that they don’t offer anything NEAR my size. I am a 32AA but only have one bra in that size; the rest are a variety of 32A bras that run shallow and/or heavily padded in the cups. I have a boyish no-curves figure already, so thankfully I’m comfortable wearing a push-up bra every day. I don’t have a choice, other than ordering very expensive bras online.

    • Sara L.

      I’m also in the sub-A range and have a hard time finding bras that fit. I appreciate reading that others have the same problem and I will be looking into the recommended websites. Also, it never occured to me to look in the girls section (I haven’t been an A cup my whole life, just since my kids were born). Thanks for the suggestions!

  • A-C

    Sally, this is going to seem weird, but what is the name of the bra in your first picture that’s on the manequin? It looks incredibly comfy!

    • Sal

      No, not weird at all! Those are the SureSize Wirefree style, number 3484. They’re a Fall 2011 bra, so should be available in the next month or so.

  • Denise

    Sally, I’m fascinated and confused to hear that bra fittings should be done with your bra ON. Please tell me more! When I did bra fittings, the bras I saw on many women were shot to the point of no support, so I’m baffled as to why you’d want to leave it on during the fitting. Enlighten me!

    • Sal

      I’ll have to ask the Bali folks to give more info, but basically the measurements needed to determine bra size can be taken with a bra already on. No need to get naked!

      • Katharine

        This might work if you are wearing an unlined bra (which is how I do it, as otherwise my breasts are… not in a suitable position or shape, shall we say) but not with even a “t-shirt” level of padding, surely?

        I know Bali, but have never bought or tried any; my usual bra supplier (the Bay; thank you, 2 for 1 Bay Days) generally only carries Bali in very large sizes, which, other than my band size, I am not. I’ve sometimes liked the look of their bras, but most of the models I’ve seen on the rack have this weird, fat, padded strap which I don’t like — although maybe they skip that feature in smaller sizes.

      • Denise

        I’m a dork! I misunderstood. Of course I measured women with their bras on; I somehow interpreted “fitting” to mean “trying on the bra.” I even had a few sips of my morning coffee as I read this: clearly I needed a bit more caffeine to clear my head!

    • Lalalina

      If I may chime in, I work for another well known bra retailer and I have some insight to offer. When you are not wearing a bra, your breasts move in different directions and flatten out. Now, this is not always the case, but it is 75% of the time. By performing a measurement with a bra on, even an ill fitting one, the girls are generally going in one direction and you have some shape similar to where you want to be. I can not stress this enough, measurements are just a guideline!!!!!! A bra specialist at any retailer can measure you at any given size, but until they check the size and fit on you, you are never 100% sure of your size. Just as an example, based on the measuring guidelines at my retailer, first measuring around the fullest part of the bust then measuring around the top of the bust, I measure as a 41 B. My actual size is a 38C. Measurements are useful to get you on the right track, but I would always suggest meeting with a bra specialist at any retailer to check the fit of your bras.

      • Sal

        THANK YOU, my dear! This is incredibly helpful.

      • I’m not sure why retailers suggest measuring around the top of the bust/under the arms, unless they plan for the bra to be worn upside down. (Yes, this method gives me a completely wrong size too.)

  • Thank you for an inside look, Sal. I’ve always liked Bali bras for their quality, even though I need only a *little* support.

  • Miranda

    Katharine —
    I was just about to write a similar comment! I’m also a 32D and have an awful time finding my size. So glad to know that there are some companies out there who realize we exist (and thanks to Sally for pointing this one out), and so glad to know there’s someone else out there having a similar experience to mine!

  • As a full figured woman, I have tried on Bali bras many times but ultimately never purchased one. The shape of the cups in the full figured and minimizer styles does not fit the shape of my breasts well. I like that Bali has full cup coverage in many of their full figured styles, unfortunately this also seems to be a factor in why they don’t fit my breasts well.

    It sounds like an amazing event! Despite the fact that I haven’t had luck with Bali bras, I applaud them for selling quality full figured bras that are pretty. Quality full figured bras are truly hard to find!

    • Chrysta-have you tried Pennington’s (I don’t know if the store is strictly Canadian though)? it’s a plus size store but their bras aren’t necessarily for plus size women. it feels SO GOOD to be measured by women who aren’t Victoria’s Secret models AND to be able to look at a wall FULL of pretty bras for women who aren’t tiny tiny. I found that I just can’t identify with the models in Sally’s post, though a wonderful post as usual, and that is often the sad but true case for me. I can’t walk into Victoria’s Secret and buy anything or see anything that really appeals to me.

  • Sadly, they only offer 2 styles in my size and none of them are in the pretty colors they offer the other sizes in. 🙁

  • Brie

    Like Katharine and Miranda, I’m a 32 D, and Bali tends to have that in stores. Seems from these posts that it’s not that uncommon of a size, but it can be quite tricky to track down.

    By the way Sally, I just started reading your blog a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled upon it in my search for “how to wear leggings.” I’ve been eagerly checking it every day and reading all of your greatest hits as well. I just love all of your great ideas and advice! Thanks.

    • Sal

      Thank you, Brie! You rock!

  • Gail graff

    Similar to A-C, I would love to know more about the bras in the top photo, I’m always looking for comfortable around-the-house bras. Love your blog 🙂

    • Sal

      You bet! Those are the SureSize Wirefree style, number 3484. They’re a Fall 2011 bra, so should be available in the next month or so.

      I think I’m getting one to review in the next few weeks, so I’ll report back!

      • A-C

        Sal–that’s fantastic! Can you find out how the sizing in it would work, ie whether its by band + cup or just band size? After reading your post I searched all over their site and realized that they have NOTHING in my size. 🙁

        • Sal

          I’ll check or get someone from Bali to respond. When the style goes on sale, I’m sure charts will be included!

  • rb

    I have been wearing Wacoal and Fayreform, but I think I’ll check out Bali again, because I very much like what you say about the company and their philosophy! Thanks for the post.

  • Ava

    Being an unusual bra size and in need of new bras, I popped over to Bali’s website to see about ordering and other information, thinking that if their return policy was good enough, I might try ordering a couple, or maybe tracking down a store with a large supply.

    But the trouble is, different manufacturers conceive of sizing differently, and even though I was professionally measured and shown how the measuring process worked (plus I’m a dressmaker, so I know how to remeasure myself, and do), that information doesn’t help me much, since Bali doesn’t seem to state on their website what measuring process they use for their bra fitting! I get that they’re trying to encourage people to be properly measured rather than just attempting to figure it out on their own, but it’s very inconvenient.

    Some manufacturers use band sizes that are actually based on the wearer’s underbust or chest (above the bust) measurement, some want 4-5 inches added (for, in my opinion, no apparent reason). Based on the first approach, the way I was measured, I’m a 36DDD – but if you start adding inches, it becomes a whole different ballgame. So because Bali is being mysterious about their sizing, I don’t even have the means to tell if they make my size! It’s rather unfortunate. Do they have that information listed anywhere? I hunted, but I couldn’t find it.

    • Ava

      Hm – over on the Hanes website (where one gets sent from Bali website for price information and purchasing), there’s a bit about bra sizing that uses the add-five-inches approach. http://www.onehanesplace.com/wcsstore/opencmscontent/CVWEB/content/OHP_BraSizeChart.html

      Sal, why are bras so inconsistent?! Sigh.

      • Sal

        I know, it’s frustrating. Inconsistent sizing – on any garment – just makes you want to join a nudist colony. Here’s the Bali fit calculator: http://www.balicompany.com/fitcalculator.bra.asp Hope it helps!

        • Amanda

          Which appears to use the “add 5 inches to underbust” sizing which doesn’t work well at all for women with smaller rib cages. That calculator puts me at a 38AA. I wear a size 34D, which fits exactly as it should (front sits flat against my chest, back is straight across, underwires and cups comfortably contain my entire breast with no spillage or wrinkling). If anything, I could go with a 34DD in some brands and styles. Of course, no one should just blindly go with a bra calculator’s determination, but it is a bit ridiculous to be told such a wildly incorrect size. Bali is not alone in this problem at all, sadly.

          • Laurinda

            That Bali sizing is ridiculous.
            I was fitted a couple weeks ago as a 36H.
            The Bali link says I am a 42A (which, BTW has no styles available).
            No way.
            Size advice like Bali’s is another reason why women are wearing the wrong size bra.

        • Nancy LeBalle

          Sorry, but the Bali fit calculator is completely wrong, and based on the ludicrous idea that you add 5-6 inches to your under bust measurement to get your band size. It sized me in a band at least 2 sizes too large and a cup at least two sizes too small.

          And why doesn’t Bali make bras for anyone with a band size smaller than 32? I bet my eye teeth a lot of these women claiming to be 32Ds are actually 30DDs or even 28DDDs, and the 32As are very likely 30Bs or 28Cs.

          The fact is, NO U.S. BRA MANUFACTURER makes bras for women with small rib cages. We all have to purchase from European manufacturers. Get with it Bali, and make sizes for everyone.

          I might buy a bunch of your bras is you ever made ones that actually fit me.

          • Michelle

            Heh. Seriously? About the US bra manufacturers? That would explain it.

            Bali’s site calculated me as a 34B.

            I’m a 30F/DDD. I buy European bras: usually Prima Donna.

    • A handful of UK bra blogs have been engaged in a bit of a debate over sizing methods this past week. The consensus seems to be that adding 4-5 inches to your underbust measurement is a bad idea and almost always results in an uncomfortable, unsupportive bra.

      I can’t comment on Bali bras, but their calculator (like most calculators and size charts) gives me size 30A. I actually wear a 28DD, and some 28 bands are too loose for me, so in my case this method is off by 1-2 band sizes and 3 cup sizes (28DD is equivalent to 30D or 32C). Measuring above the bust, which also gives me 30A, makes very little sense to me – your bra band needs to fit around your ribcage, not your upper chest.

      I don’t think any size formula can work for everybody. If you’ve been measured as a 36DDD, you might try assessing the fit of your current bras for any signs that you might need a different size (Bravissimo’s fit guide is quite good) and then ordering accordingly.

      My issue with bra sizing is not that different brands fit wildly inconsistently; it’s that common sizing advice is completely inconsistent with the way the bras actually fit.

    • TK

      THANK YOU for pointing out the +5″ thing here. More people deserve to know that it may be worth questioning those instructions. In fact I think every woman should measure her own underbust so that she knows when a fitter is using that flawed rule. I have been fitted to wear the band size corresponding to my underbust + 5″ every single time, even at stores and departments with good reputations. It’s so annoying!

  • Marsha Calhoun

    “85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.” I’ve seen this statement (with varying percentages) all around the internet. Question: How do they know?

  • Laurinda

    THIS is why women wear the wrong bra size:
    I’m a 36H and Bali seems to stop at 36F.

    *sigh* — nothing for me, and I am hardly a freak of nature.

    • Kris

      Haha. Yes. I’m a 34H or 36G (Euro sizing, not US! For instance, Wacoal 36G doesn’t even come close to fitting!), and it’s impossible to find bras unless I go to a specialty shop. And I hate to do it, but I get fit in person, buy one bra, then buy the rest of my bras that year online. I try to get fit every year, but it doesn’t always happen…

    • Halo

      EXACTLY! I’m generally a 38G, though I’ve worn an F in some British lines. It’s terribly frustrating to never see your cup size in stores, so I just go to Nordstrom and spend $80+ a pop on the brands that actually fit and flatter.

    • tagatha

      Have you tried Prima Donna bras? Their cup sizes go up to J.

      • Maria H.

        The largest cupssize with Primadonna is Continental European i, which is roughly FF/G in larger bandsizes (90 i EU = 40 G UK) and GG/H in smaller bandsizes like 32. This is due to some sizing weirdness from many Continental European brands.

        British brands like Freya, Fantasie, Curvy Kate and Panache make the largest cupsizes. A British K-cup equals roughly a Continental European R-Cup and an American O-Cup.

    • Laurinda

      Thank you for the *ahem* support.

      I’ve had good luck with Elomi and Freya brands, and found an excellent fitter at Nordstroms. I’ll have to check out Prima Donnas. I’m just envious of gals who can finding well-fitting bras that are lacy and pretty, and are even be able to choose among styles and colors 8-O! I guess the cost of well-engineered bras is not so much when you consider the thousands of dollars that some women spend to get what we come by naturally.

    • Kris2

      Wait, there’s up to F cup in ANY band in actual stores? I have never seen this. (I’m a 34E/F depending on brand, and I recently went on a crazy spree buying bras because Fantasie discontinued my favorite ever style so I bought extras because I HATE bra shopping. It’s impossible to find suitable sizes in-store, so you have to mail order, and then you have to guess at size and if the thing will give you the right shape and be comfortable, and if it doesn’t fit somehow, you have to deal with returning it… I HATE IT.)

      If Bali wants to make a big difference – get a wider variety of sizes INTO ACTUAL PHYSICAL STORES. Including smaller bands with large cups and larger bands with small cups. Whole size range. I understand that stores might not want to carry inventory of all the styles in all the possible sizes, but if your size is available in at least a couple of sizes it gives you something to go by if you then need to mail order. (As many department stores will now do, and waive shipping, if they don’t have an item in stock.)

      Also, while I am wishing for the impossible – I want someone to make exercise tops with built in low-to-medium impact bras for women with larger cup sizes. The kind of thing you could wear to do yoga.

  • Maggie May

    For ladies looking for great bras in the smaller size ranges, there is a store in the San Francisco Bay Area which specializes in this range. They have a great name but I will have to seek out the reference. It tickles my memory that they are in Burlingame or another nearby city. I will report back!

  • Maggie May

    It is called Lula Lu and is in San Mateo and they have a website, lulalu.com. They say they specialize in 30A to 38AAA! Good luck to those who were searching for such a source. I know it is a specialty source, not an answer for local shopping, but it is a resource!!!

  • judy

    it appears buying bras is universally frustrating!
    when i use the “add 4-5 inches” formula i end up in a negative cup!!!!! what, do i have dents where my breasts should be? as for what size do i wear in reality, well, that depends on the bra style and manufacturer.
    i can see why we are almost all wearing the wrong size, as there is no such thing as universal sizing. it is agonizing to find styles that work with your personal build/body type. when i find one, i buy multiples and various colors. when i bra shop i spend DAYS. i often build outfits around bras instead of buying bras for outfits. it took me 3 weeks of shopping to find a nude color that matched my skin tone, racer back bra that did not squeeze together boobage cause back fat bulges beyond and didn’t contour my breasts into some bizarre un-natural shape.

  • erinsuzanne

    Ha! I loved “Bali is well aware of its reputation for being, “Your grandmother’s bra company,”…because I own about 7 bali bras that I call my teaching bras. I wear them during the school year when I teach high schoolers, because they fit well and there is no show through. (I’m a 34-C, so I can find their bras in my size everywhere). But I always think that I sort of look like my mother or grandmother with my very practical, plain, conservative bras. Hence the growing collection of wildly colored/patterned/lace “non-teaching” bras that I would never wear to school- but love wearing on weekends or in the summer. Thanks for this post, loved learning a little bit more about bra fitting and Bali!

  • I remember ordering some Bali bras after I went up a size to 36 DD. When I got the mail and tried the bras on, I almost CRIED because they were SO COMFORTABLE. I wore those bras to death. Getting more is a mission for me, because I’m based in New Zealand, but I’m thinking they might be worth it…

  • Bubu

    I have to add a shout out for Bali as well – I now only get theirs (great deals at the Hanes store at the outlet mall) – i get the “flower petal” ones, whatever they are called. But the only bras I’ve ever worn where the straps don’t slide off my shoulders all day, the thing just stays where it should, and the “petal” feature prevents unwanted, what shall we say, pointedness going on. I definitely prefer plainer nude or black bras that lie flat and don’t show through – i want the focus on the clothes, not the underclothes.

  • The majority of my family (3/4 girls) buy bras from Europe. They often don’t care the sizes we need in stores (or you know, anywhere) in the US.

    I typically wear a 32DD, but that’s because it’s easier to find than a 30F which is what I should be wearing. It’s nearly impossible to find a 30 (or below) band size. And if you do find it, then it’s assumed you’re an A, B, or C.

    Bra shopping really sucks for just about everyone in my family — my sister has a larger band size but also a very large cup size which means she can’t shop in the US either. :/

    I also despise the trend of “sister sizing”. A 34 band will not work on me! It will simple slide all over the place/right off. I belong to a Livejournal community for people with odd bra sizes and it’s a frequent complaint (along with the lack of offerings available in the US).

    I think if Bali branched out their sizing to 28 and 30 bands, along with large cup sizes H, I, J — then they would get a lot more customers who would cheerfully shop their bras. I’d be delighted if I could purchase a bra that I could try on BEFORE I bought it (and I’m sure others would be too)!

    • TK

      Amen. I wear a 28G, and it makes me so angry and sad to see companies whose message is “We have bras for EVERYONE, REALLY, even YOU!!!”, and then they don’t carry what I imagine would be a pretty common band size if more women were wearing the correct size (I mean 30 — I realize 28 is a bit of a stretch, although I still think companies claiming to fit EVERYONE ought to have 28s as well).

      I love the content of what Bali told you, Sally — about wearing the right foundations to feel great about yourself, working with your body no matter what size it is, and being passionate about proper fit. Totally, 100% on board. But the selection of bras Bali sells are just not consistent with their message. Wish they would put their money where their mouth is.

      • Just thirding this as a 30GG. There’s nothing in Bali’s size range that comes close to fitting me. I’d love to be a customer of any line that makes widely available (in the US) affordable bras. But apparently, they do not want me.

      • Laurinda

        Amen^2 !

      • Rebecca

        Amen!!! I am disappointed by how few companies make bras in 30 band sizes and even if I try to “sister size” with a 32DD, most 32 bands are only made up to a C. WHY would you have small breasts JUST because you have a small ribcage??

    • Michelle

      30F is my size! Prima Donna and Fantasie have 30F’s I believe….

  • Aris Merquoni

    I used to wear Bali bras, but I re-measured or grew a cup size and now the only bras of theirs that I can find in stores in my size are minimizers. (38F here.) And they’re still comfortable, but I miss my non-minimizing bras!

  • Susan

    How on earth am I supposed to put a bra on they way the lady suggested? Especially if someone were a larger woman? I can barely fasten a necklace behind my neck, there’s no way I am going to fasten a 3-hook bra behind my back. My cats won’t help me, either. I wear a 40-C, and I put a bra on with the cups upside down on my back, fasten the hooks in front, shisft it around so the cups are in the front and the straps dangle, get my arms in, and settle the girls in place. Am I freak? I don’t have staff.

    • Laurinda

      LOL, I have to get the strap so tight to give the bra proper ‘hoicking’ power that I about wrench my back trying to twist the hooks to the back!

      NO WAY could I ever hook this power stretch in the back.

  • Sal

    Thanks for all your great comments and feedback! I’ve asked someone from Bali to weigh in, if possible, since I don’t have the expertise to address many of these highly specific and technical questions. Also hoping they’ll be interested to hear your feedback on sizing.

    Just as a quick reminder, all style “rules” – including those dispensed by the Bali reps and conveyed by me in this post – are merely guidelines. If you prefer to be measured without a bra on, do that. If you can’t do the lean-over-and-wiggle thing, don’t. I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent. None of this is meant to make you feel wrong or badly in any way. Just a specific perspective and some potentially helpful information.

    • Susan

      You’re a saint =)

    • Ava

      Yay! I look forward to seeing what the folks at Bali have to say. I would LOVE to have more bra shopping options, but I’m very suspicious of their approach to fitting.

      Though I did notice that the bra I recently ordered from a British company as a 36DDD actually says 40F on the label…but it’s definitely NOT 40″ around the band; it’s tidily snug around 36-37″ depending on where it’s hooked. So maybe Bali has that sort of approach to band sizes? Add some inches to get….a number that basically means nothing? Hm. maybe some sort of holdover based on an old “average” b-cup design? Must research history of bra sizing. (I have strange hobbies.)

  • Wow that would have been really awesome lucky you! I’d love to get invites like for my blog someday too. I enjoy working with brands it sounds like a ton of fun.

  • Lisa W.

    I am stunned by the statistic that the average American woman purchases bras 4 times a year. I buy new bras (2 or 3) maybe every 4 years! Granted, I think I take good care of them (hand-washing, delicate machining every now and then and always air-drying) but WOW. I was once told that a good guideline was to have 3 bras: the one you’re wearing, the one that’s in the wash, and the one in your drawer. You can expand that for “special” strapless items, I guess. I believe most women I know find a good, comfortable style and stick to that. I think if you’re buying new bras 4 times a year it’s simply because you haven’t found the right fit yet? Very curious!

    • Sal

      I was surprised by that one as well! I buy bras every couple of years.

      • Katharine

        I buy a new bra (well, two, one beige and one black) every year. I wash mine on the gentle cycle, and hang to dry, but I definitely notice a decline in fit and support at the end of the year period. The cups start to bag a bit at the edges; I’m going in further and further on the hooks at the back to keep things snug; the little sliders on the straps lose their grip and start to slide backward through the day.

        I do tend to keep the old bras around for too long (as backup) but my in-practice rule for bras is that I have a beige one and a black one in rotation through the week, depending on the colour of my top, plus a comfy unlined cotton jersey underwire one that I change into at the end of the day. All three get washed once a week.

  • Laura B.

    I don’t buy any Bali products because they do not make bras in my size. There are many, many, many women who required more than a DD cup size, and many of those women are NOT plus sized, and in fact require a band size at the small end of the range. I myself am a 32G or 32H in American bras, and a 32F or 32FF in British ones, depending on the style. Going up a band size and down a cup size does NOT work, because the overlarge band significantly reduces the amount of support the bra provides, and the shape and placement of the cups isn’t as good.

    The reason why many bra companies don’t think women with a shape like this exist in nature is that they are still under the impression that you should add 4-5″ to your underbust measurement to get your band size. This results in a band that’s far too big to provide the 90% of support it’s supposed to provide (straps should only provide 10%). In a 36DD bra, which is what most bra companies insist I should be, I was constantly pulling up the front which slipped down to press painfully into my ribcage. The front center of the bra was pushed out away from my chest because of the too-small cups. But when women are fitted into the correct size bras, there are a whole lot more of us who naturally, without having had augmentation, are above a DD or even a DDD, and who fall within the small to medium range of band sizes.

    I dream of one day being able to purchase bras in a “normal” store, a department store like Macy’s, without getting a breast reduction. Right now, the only stores I can go to and actually try on bras in my size are small specialty boutiques. Nordstrom’s is the only department store that sells my size, and there isn’t one close to me. When bra companies realize women like me are not uncommon, and start making bras that fit us, maybe I’ll be able to just go to my local Macy’s or similar store, and buy bras!

  • Cel

    I do a lot of my bra shopping at Sears so I’m surprised I’ve never noticed their products there before now. I should check them out the sooner-than-liked next time I have to go bra shopping.

  • Sorry Bali, my bra size is between a 32GG and a 30 H, so you are not interested in empowering me. 🙁

  • I knew you would love them, I have a Bali bra I got at a fashion week thing that I adore – the best bra I own! And I’m in shock that women buy four bras a year!!!

  • maryeb

    Here’s another vote for AA size bras PLEEEEEEASE!

  • I used to work for a major bra company as a bra fit specialist. In my time with the retailer, I found that many, many women were frustrated with the results of the bra fittings I did for them. We were told to follow a very specific set of guidelines when fitting women. But after many failed attempts using the company system, I eventually started using my instinct and experience in conjunction with the fitting to give the customers an accurate measurement/fit.

    Several years later, I still struggle to find bras that fit well, and I am well aware of the parameters for a best-fit bra. I wear a 36DD. I have tried several Bali bras, but I have been unhappy with the fit every time and have never purchased one. Lately, I am looking into buying bras from specialized online companies, but unfortunately this is pretty far outside my current budget, which is more suited to Target bras.

    Ultimately, no matter how accurate your measurements are, your body and breasts are unique from every other woman in the world. This makes it awfully challenging, since each of us needs a bra to fit those unique parameters.

  • aquaflame

    Add me to the list of women who would be quite happy to buy Bali bras if they only made them in my size. Actually, I used to wear Bali bras, like back in high school, I remember them being simple, relatively comfortable and easy to find in stores. All good things. But I’m positive that even then I was wearing the wrong size.

    For years I bought bras in 38DD or eventually 36DDD (because DDD is the largest bras come, right? so I couldn’t have been bigger than that . . . .NOT) and I used to complain that my bras would slide down, the underwires press on the top of my tummy, move around when I bent over, etc. The center gore used to poke out the front of my shirts! I tried to get fitted and no one ever told me all those problems are because I was wearing the completely wrong size. Because why would they tell me that I needed a size they don’t carry?

    Well, it turns out I need something like 34J/32JJ/32K (depending on style/brand) or so IN UK SIZES! That makes me something like an M/N cup in US sizes! Not that that exists. (But *I* do. I am not a freak!)
    I do wear plus sizes (usually 18/20), actually, I just happen to be much smaller around the rib cage than anywhere else. So I really need those smaller band sizes for support. (add inches is an outdated LIE!!!!!)

    Not a single American company makes bras in my size. Or anything close. (Cacique comes the closest, but stops at an H, and then only goes down to 38H, 36 stops at DDD. why? who knows!?!)
    I don’t really expect any American companies to make my size, but they could expand their sizes SOME. Stop pretending DD or DDD is the largest size! Stop pretending 34 is the smallest band size! If more people could see that a wider range of sizes exists, and yanno, actually try them on and buy them in stores, maybe so many of us would not be wearing the wrong size!

    It would be lovely to some day be able to walk into a store and buy a bra, instead of having to order them all online. *sigh* And wow, I would love, love, love something like the 1st bra pictured, comfortable, light, soft, just enough support for lounging/casual use. But, yanno, can’t. ‘Cause no one makes them. (I will have to custom order something from Decent Exposures, which I will get around to doing someday.)

    • Maria H.

      Actually Goddess and Elila make some bras up to 34 JJ (UK)/34 N (US), so you are definitely not a freak. Unfortunately only with a 34 band and without underwires and with a design that makes most young women run screaming for the hills, but yeah.

      I’m wear a 40 GG/H (UK) with Panache and Elomi and a 40 J (US) with Goddess. I feel your pain, because I live in Germany. The only bra company here in Germany that makes my size is Ulla Dessous. I would be a 90 L with them, but they ask 145 EUR (200 USD) for one of their bras in that size. As a consequence I order online from the USA.

      • aquaflame

        you know? I just discovered this about Goddess, like a few days ago! I think the 34N is new, or at least it was newly carried at my local store. The 34 is still a touch looser than I’d like (on tightest hook straight off) but not bad for the price. (Although technically Goddess and Elomi are both owned by Eveden, which owns Fantasie and Freya, and I assume is a British brand, although maybe not?)

        What you mentioned about the German company, that’s a lot of money for a bra!!!!! I can see why you would order from the US!

  • Susan

    I usually go bra shopping when I find a new boyfriend. Heh.

  • Bali already cater to a hard-to-find size range (40-48 bands) and they deserve to be commended for that.

    However, to put a foreign perspective on the issue of size availability, Marks & Spencer (a British department store, *not* a specialist lingerie brand) carries nearly twice as many sizes as Bali – bands range from 28 to 44, cups from AA to J, which is the equivalent of an American M cup. Again, this is not what you can find at a specialist shop catering to unusual sizes; this is what you can find on the British high street. As for 32D, that falls within the range of “average” sizes that you can buy just about anywhere.

    If Bali wish to publicise the “85% of women wear the wrong bra size” statistic, I invite them to do something about the problem by expanding their size range – women who need bands smaller than 32 and/or cups larger than DDD are far from unusual. They could also make a difference by improving their online size calculator, which is based on an outdated and inaccurate formula. I’m guessing many women are wearing the wrong bra size because that’s what they’ve been *told* to wear.

  • Laurinda

    Kudos to you Sally, for bringing up this issue. Clearly you touched a nerve with the many of us who feel slighted as being “too small” or “too large” to be be considered customers. I’m looking forward to Bali’s response, and maybe even a counter point to the “add 5” school of thought from someone else. Nordstrom is one possibility, and the fitter I worked with is just down the road from you at the Mall of America. If you can help your sisters get well-fitting and lovely foundations we will raise the funds to get you a bronze statue on the Nicollet Mall, and write songs that future schoolchildren will sing in your honor.

    • Sal

      Hahaha, oh Laurinda, now that’s a helluva promise! I am prodding the Bali folks to respond here and hope they’ll be able to …

  • Hello Sally,

    Love love this writeup you did on Bali event. I think I’m happiest that I got to meet so many amazing people like yourself. Thanks so much for your sweet words about me on your lovely links. I think i’m going to have to incorporate that on my blog.

    Honestly, it didn’t take long for me to become such a fan of yours- you’re lovely and have the most positive energy and I also still want those sandals and red dress you wore.
    Here’s to continued blogging and staying in touch.
    Cynthia from addicted2etsy

  • Erin

    I currently wear a 30E or 30F depending on the bra, and I’m starting to suspect I should be wearing 28F (or 28G). No American bra company carries anything close to my size. For almost all of my adult life I wore 34Cs despite the fact that they ~never~ fit. What makes me saddest is not that I spent years wearing unsupportive bras that probably did permanent damage to my chest, but that for all those years I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with my body. I had no idea bras came in other sizes or that it could be a size problem, I thought my body was just shaped in some weird, freaky way. It took going to a specialty bra shop to realize there was nothing wrong with ~me~. So now I have a grudge against the American bra industry, but it beats feeling crappy all the time about my own body. If Bali (or any local company) started making bras I could wear I would be so happy.

  • “Not all but some Bali bra styles range from 32B to 48DDD” -ummm, I find that horribly unimpressive. Offensive, even. If so-called ‘experts’ were fitting women properly, none of those sizes would be common. And yet they promote the idea that anything outside 34-40 A-D is weird and mutant, because they act like they just have tons of sizes when they actually have a rubbish selection. Bravissimo from the UK, who do proper fittings, estimate that the average size ought to be 30F. Adding a bunch of inches to the band measurement just leads to bra misery and inadequate support for most women in my experience. Not to any woman under a (properly fitting) D cup is actually going to end up with a negative number! 🙁 And I know it might not seem that important if you’re smaller busted, but for a woman with big breasts, wearing an ill fitting bra is a serious health issue.

    Their calculator tells me 30DD, which they of course don’t actually have. There is a photo in this post showing just how badly that size actually fits me: http://sophiajenner.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/christina-hendricks-bra-size-controversy/ I was miserable for years in hideous 34DD’s because that was the best size I could actually find. My actual size? 26HH, sometimes 24J. So I appreciate that Bali says they want to improve things for women, but in my opinion they’re doing a bad job of it.

  • Rebecca

    I am Rebecca, your friendly neighborhood “Bra Lady,” ~ an eleven year veteran ~ at Macy’s in a suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shopping mall.

    Good on you fashion bloggers for being invited to this wonderful intimate apparel style summit!

    Well aware that Bali is attempting to expand into the more youthful fashion market, I do still appreciate their dedication to the basic styles that have made their “classic” styles the go-to product of choice for millions of women all over the world.

    Please keep in mind that there is NO Bali Bra Factory anywhere on Planet Earth. For that matter, there is NO Maidenform, Vanity Fair, Victoria’s Secret, etc. Bra Factory either.

  • kit

    It’s Dec and I’m just reading your blog. Can you tell me the name and style of the bra in the picture on the very top? It’s looks like Bali Sure Sex?? Thanks much for your response.

  • kit

    Apparently, the Bali Sure Size (style 3484) is no longer available at JCP. I searched on the web and I cannot find anywhere…..